Pope Francis urges interfaith dialogue while in Muslim Turkey
Pope Francis has begun a trip to Turkey with a call for interfaith dialogue to combat extremism and terrorising that seeks religious justification while condemning "barbaric violence."
On the first day of his visit to mainly Muslim Turkey Francis said that all religious leaders must strongly denounce violations against human dignity and life and any violence which seeks religious justification.
The Pope said the due mainly "to an extremist and fundamentalist group, entire communities" especially Christians and Yazidis, continue "to suffer barbaric violence simply because of their ethnic and religious identity."
Christians represent a tiny minority in Turkey where 99 percent of the people are Muslims.
The Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate has been based in Istanbul form many centuries, but there now only about 120,000 Christians in Turkey.
Speaking in Ankara, Pope Francis said that good relations and dialogue between religious leaders are vital because they represent they show mutual respect and friendship are possible, notwithstanding differences.
"Such friendship, as well as being valuable in itself, becomes all the more meaningful and important in a time of crises such as our own, crises which in some parts of the world are disastrous for entire peoples," said the pontiff.
The Pope held a joint news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on November 28 when he said dialogue is important in striving for the building of a peace based on essential rights.
Erdogan criticized rising Islamophobia in the West and then reluctance of the international community's to confront Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"In Syria, 300,000 people have been killed and seven million displaced," said the Turkish leader euronews reported.
"Refugees have fled to neighboring countries and unfortunately this is being ignored. Nobody is talking seriously about the situation. There is state terrorism in this country."
Turkey, for its part, has faced accusations, which it denies, of disregarding fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State entering Syria from its territory as it believes they will accelerate Assad's fall.
Pope Francis, however, lauded Turkey for hosting some 1.6 million refugees, including Christians and other minorities fleeing mayhem sparked by the IS in Iraq and Syria.